Archive | Flowers and Plants

Annual, perennial and interesting flowers with advice on culture, information, tips and recommended varieties

Pros and Cons of Clematis

Positives for Clematis

  • As climbers these plants occupy little space at ground level
  • Clematis are available in a variety of colours from white, rose, purples and blue. Many varieties produce abundant flowers and some have a second flush.
  • Clematis can flower from early spring through to autumn and some varieties are good from midsummer onward.
  • Look for different varieties of Clematis such as  alpina, macropetala, montana, chrysocoma or  X jackmanii.
  • Flowers can be as large as dinner plates or as dainty as small stars.
  • Seed heads can also look nice.

Negatives of Growing Clematis

  • They can be hard to get going and roots should be planted deep and kept moist. I place a slate over the planting site as a temporary mulch until a new plant gets going.
  • Some varieties including the montanas can grow rampantly and high into the branches of trees. This can leave bare stems.
  • Pruning is complicated by garden advice and it is easy to prune out the next flowering season if you get t badly wrong.

Clematis seedhead


Small Spaced Kitchen Gardens

Where space is limited or very limited there are still many ways to create a productive kitchen garden.

Optimising Space for your Kitchen Garden.

  • It seems common sense to plan to use what you have available. That covers layout, sequential growing and innovation.
  • If you have a ‘general’ garden then you can interplant kitchen plants eg herbs with box hedges, colourful veg with annuals and fruit trees instead of conifers.
  • Substitute kitchen garden plants for other plants and features as they did when digging for victory.
  • I grow potatoes in old compost bags and pots on my many paths.
  • Other garden veg can be grown in pots even runner beans. Another plant I am having success with is tumbler (Cherry) tomatoes in smallish pots. The are compact easy to grow and are currently producing lots of small sweet fruit.
  • Chose plants and varieties that grow and mature quickly eg salad, radish courgettes and edible flowers.
  • Herbs can be grown in slender strawberry pots with several opening spaces.

Small Garden Fruit

  • Dwarf rooting stock has opened up the opportunity to grow and pick fruit from  small constrained trees or shrubs.
  • Trained apple, pear or currants can be grown as cordons, espalier or fans against a wall. I have also seen a gooseberry grown this way. ( Cordons are diagonal branches that are only allowed short laters, espaliers are grown with a vertical and one or two level branches forming a cross).
  • Grape vines normally need a lot of space but with rigorous training and the right location you can succeed in a small plot.
  • Soft fruit including strawberries and blue berries are ripe for pot growing.
  • I would always find space for rhubarb but that is due to my ‘pie fetish.’

Lemon Sunflowers

Sunflower seeds are now available in a range of colours and growing habits. These Lemon Queen plants provide several heads on one compact growing plant. Contrast that to the wilder plants I have to weed out as seedlings that grow from my bird feeders.

Tips on growing and displaying Sunflowers for cutting




Old Venerables and Trees That Disappear

It is hard to picture how old this tree would be had it lived. Judging by the spread of it’s roots, which were over 12 feet in diameter, it would have been some sized tree.

Up on Friars Crag near Derwentwater the remnants of this trunk are now gone. It is interesting to note that the roots are the only parts that are still rotting. Was it the moss that protected the roots?

Nearby is a monument in recognition of the writer, social reformer and artist John Ruskin’s  visit to Keswick in 1824. I would guess that was around the time the tree died to start the rotting process but that is only a guess. Ruskin was fascinated by nature and would have a better idea about this tree remnant. He build his own garden at Brantwood near Conniston Lake ‘A paradise of art and nature’

Keswick has some grand trees in a distributed arboretum in the parks and near the river Greta. Try the tree trail in Upper Fitz Park.
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Gloxinia as Houseplant Gifts

Can you grow too much of a good thing? Yes I think so. There are only so many plants you can accommodate in the garden, house or even through life. So as part of enjoying the growing aspect of gardening I have started to deliberately grow for giving plants away in this case Gloxinia.

Selecting the Gift

  • A plant in flower is far more attractive than one the recipient has to grow-on or wait to see how it looks.
  • A plant that still has lots of buds to open or develop will extend the pleasure. (See the latent buds on the next photo).
  • Presenting the present in an appropriate way is worth a bit of effort. I have been buying a range of bowls and plant pot holders from charity shops to act as containers. In many cases I can colour co-ordinate to match container and plant. Artistically minded may want to add a label or bespoke wrapping.
  • Not everyone believes the Gloxinia I am giving are houseplants so I should consider providing a bit more information.

Simple Advice For Gifted Gloxinia

  • Gloxinia like plenty of bright light without direct burning sun.
  • Turn the pot round so the plant and flowers develop evenly. They love to bend towards the light.
  • Water from the bottom when the compost is dry and the leaves are floppy. Err on the side of too little rather than too much water.
  • After flowering which may last 6-8 weeks, allow the plant to rest and die back.
  • Keep the dry tuber until next spring if you want to try to regrow your gift.

Tips on Growing Gloxinia

Tubers or corms may be found under the name Sinningia speciosa or Gloxinia and are part of the Gesneriaceae family that includes African Violets. They have been grown as florists gloxinia since being discovered in Brazil in 1815.

    • Plant shallowly in good compost with the buds facing upwards, this is usually the concave side like begonias.
    • Water the compost with warm water from the bottom to stop the tuber rotting and keep the atmosphere humid without getting the leaves or flowers wet or they will be stained with brown blotches.
    •  If the furry leaves elongate it is a sign they need more light.
    • Do not expose to direct mid-day sun as the leaves are liable to become scorched.
    • Gloxinia  like a temperature above 60º when in growth.
    • Plastic pots are fine but I add some grit or perlite to help avoid water logging.
    • Feed with half strength liquid fertiliser



2019 Snapdragons (the year not the number)

I have previously posted about snapdragons in 2011, 2016 and  2015

This is just an update on one of my favourite little cottage garden treasures. This years winners have been a 3’6″ tall, white F1 variety and the multi coloured swap shop warm coloured variety shown. Add to this some self-sown plants or last year survivors and a good show has been delivered.

This encouraged me to sow some mixed seeds early to be over wintered. I kept half a packet back to be sown in spring in case I loose all my early sowing. Germination has been fast and furious. As this variety are said to be rust free I hope for more cottage garden blooms next summer.



Hybrid Tea and the Family Tree

First introduced in the 19th century the lineage of Hybrid Tea roses goes back to crossing or hybridising a tea rose with a hybrid perpetual rose. The first example was supposedly ‘Madame Bravy’ x ‘Madame Victor Verdier’ but many more have followed to great acclaim. One such was a rose called ‘Peace’ which has sold, under several marketing names, over 100 million plants world wide.

Hybrid Tea roses like this example of Brasilia are a group of roses that are crosses between one rose and another. In this case Piccadilly x Perfecta produced this Brasilia flower with scarlet petals reversed in pale gold.  The grandparents were  McGredy’s Yellow × Karl Herbst and Golden Scepter x Karl Herbst respectively. With 2 grandparents the same it shows how complex cross breeding became during the heyday of new rose introductions.

Another flower with reverse colour on the petals was Caramba with cherry red petals reversed with silver. It also has very dark glossy leaves. The parentage of this specimen is unknown! The name has also been sub-sumed by a ground cover rose with far less appeal.


A Raspberry to Virus

A virus has struck my favourite raspberries and the leaves have gone mottled. The light lemon green could have been a sign of magnesium deficiency but that turns out to be wishful thinking on my part. One variety partially effected last year is now in full denial and full of virus (its not just raspberry flu either.)
As can be seen below full symptoms of my raspberry virus are obvious.

  • Browned off leaves
  • Stunted cane growth
  • Minimal fruiting and small berries to boot.
  • Dead or dying plants getting ready to infect other near by plants.

I originally planted 3 varieties at the same time from a fruit tree specialist. ‘Glen Moy’ (Early season summer fruiting) – produced an abundance of firm, medium sized fruits from June to July on virtually spine-free canes, which made harvesting a pleasure (and jam eating ed.)

Raspberry ‘Glen Ample’ (Mid season summer fruiting) gave larger berries and some new canes a fair distance from the parent.

Tulameen was a wash out and most canes died. The supplier replaced them without any fuss but the cropping has remained below par. Not what I hoped for or expected but now I am worried about all my chosen varieties catching the virus.

Raspberry Nutrition



Schefflera Indoor Umbrellas

 Schefflera arboricola, known as the “dwarf umbrella tree,” has small green leaflets attached to stout petioles. Indoors it will have a mature height of 3 to 4 feet.

Schefflera arebold  make good individual plants as indoor specimens in large decorative containers. The palmate leaves have 5 to 9 finger leaves from a central stalk.

Schefflera actinophylla can grow to heights of 8 to 10 feet inside and up to 40 feet outside in very warm climates. As well as being called the ‘octopus plant’ it also shares the common name of umbrella plant. For a 4th name it is sometimes botanically named Brassiaia actinophylla.

Where to Grow Schefflera Indoor Umbrellas

  • To keep the umbrella tree happy reasonable warmth of 15-20 degrees C is best.
  • Through winter the temperature should be at least 10-13 degrees C
  • A lightly shaded location is best. Bi-coloured leaves look best with some sun.
  • Avoid very sunny or dark locations.
  • Use a robust potting mix containing some loam to feed the plant for a number of years. Fertilise in summer during growth.
  • The larger the plant the more water it needs.

Reviving Parched Indoor Plants

Dried out plants can become distressed and look to be in terminal decline through lack of water. They may wilt and the leaves drop off or go crispy.

Tips to Revive Dried Out Plants.

  • Getting water to the roots of the plant will provide a chance of reversing the dehydration.
  • It may pay to loosen the soil at the top of the pot so the water can permeate to the roots.
  • Soak the pot in a bucket of water up to the rim of the pot. Leave it to soak through, it will take longer on a large pot.
  • If the plant is really parched spray the leaves with tepid water.
  • Place a saucer under the plant to catch excess water. I use ‘clay granules in the saucer to help create humidity.
  • It may need drastic surgery on badly dried up stems and leaves. A little judicious pruning may relieve the need for the plant to repair all the damage at once.

Other Related Care Issues

  • Move plants away from fierce sunshine. Keep them away from windows or with some shade while they recover.
  • Do not leave plants in a draft which leeches moisture from your plant.
  • Pots that are full of roots are hard tpo water – where can the moisture be retained  if the roots are in the way. Repot into a bigger pot with fresh soil.
  • Take cuttings to rejuvenate a plant and be satisfied with a smaller offspring for a while.
  • Put grit or a inorganic mulch on the top of your pot.
  • Always consider the type of plant and the sort of watering regime needed. Both these African violets and Orchids need great care and to be allowed to drain after watering.
  • Some plants die and there will be nothing much you can do but try again.


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